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Everything You Ever Wanted To Be

Text by: Penny Orland, public speaker and blogger at SoHumorMe

© Amelia Lyon Photography
It's Halloween. The autumn leaves are turning to colors of the season. Orange and brown leaves hang on the branches, dangling by a thread. The air is crisp and cool at night. The moon seems brighter in the dark sky, at times thrusting its light through cloudy skies and casting creepy halos. If you listen carefully, you can hear the low moans of ghosts, goblins, and werewolves. Zombies, mummies, skeletons, and other monsters, followed by an occasional ambulatory yellow M&M, lumber down the streets. Black dotted lady bugs, black and yellow striped bumble bees, chubby orange pumpkins, and little green dragons, the smallest of the costumed caricatures, are more interested in burying their heads in festively decorated bags to see the night's loot than moving on to the next house. The older, more experienced costumed crews race to the houses doling out the biggest candy bars.

Simplicity and brown grocery bags full of giant candy bars are rare. Painted clowns, sheeted ghosts, swashbuckling pirates donning an eye patch and a bandana, black cats and fuzzy one-piece zippered sleepers turned bunnies, wand wielding princesses, and smocked doctors with a toy stethoscope have made way to more sophisticated costumes of the day. Smurfs and Strawberry Shortcake have returned. Brightly colored caped superheroes are in abundance. Halloween mega stores and lawns turned cobwebbed cemeteries dot the neighborhoods. Paths to doors draped as elaborate spook alleys howl an invitation to the decked out passersby.

My grandchildren plan for months what they want to be for Halloween, persuaded by Mom's budget and practicality. Last year it was Harry Potter ("He can always wear the jacket after Halloween.") and a fairy princess ("I can use the same costume for her fairy themed birthday party."). The youngest doesn't yet understand the excitement of the night, but didn't complain too much about being dressed up as one of Robin Hood's Merry Men. While my oldest son, now an adult, once envisioned being Darth Vader (okay, maybe in his vision Luke's nemesis was not wearing a football helmet) or my youngest daughter dreamed of being a "Beauty" in a frilly dress (she carried a foil wrapped stick dubbed a wand) and wearing lipstick, my grandchildren wear more thoughtfully planned costumes under the creative tutelage of their mom.

© Felicity Photography, Ruth Schultz Photography

Still no matter how long we parents labor over costumes, some don't turn out like planned. I know. The little fairy lost her wand early on. The Grim Reaper's plaster flour face was irritating and itchy. The skeleton ripped the seat of his black suit, hand-painted with white, unsymmetrical bones. The hula skirts fashioned from crepe paper dripped green puddles during one rainy Halloween. The cute little pumpkin whose belly was rounded out with wadded newspapers sulked while marching in the costume parade because she'd wanted to be a princess.

If you have to post a sign around your kid's neck so others can tell who they are, maybe you ought to rethink the costume. My daughter, now a mother herself, was disappointed not everyone knew the elaborate white wolf costume was Max from Where the Wild Things Are and kind of bummed that little kids kept stepping on her toddler son's long tail. Only one old man answering the doorbell recognized a petite Shirley Temple, my granddaughter, in blond ringlets, wearing a blue and white sailor dress. "Marge, come to the door," he hollered. "You've got to see this little girl."

© Amelia Lyon Photography

Times have changed. Children AND parents now dress up to themes. No more last minute costumes. Grabbing a stick, a kerchief, and a smear of charcoal for a dirty-faced hobo, or raiding Mom's room for strands of costume jewelry and a long colorful gypsy skirt are no longer acceptable. Costumes once thrown together from the depths of closets and attics now require hours of preparation. This year our family theme is The Peanuts Gang. My grandson will be Charley Brown, my granddaughter Sally, and, now that's he's making barking sounds, the youngest will be Snoopy. My daughter, fittingly the one who thinks she knows the most, will dress up as Lucy, and my son-in-law Linus. You have to admit seeing a six-foot-three man in short pants carrying a blanket will be good. Trick-or-Treating has become an extended family adventure. I want to be Woodstock - my youngest grandson loves birds, and I like yellow. And Grandpa can occupy his usual spot in the Snoopy doghouse.

But one thing hasn't changed about the season: Children still run delightfully from house to house, gleefully collecting bagfuls of sugary treats. Or maybe two things still remain… dads still enjoy rifling through bags of treats (my dad called it "inspecting") after the children are fast asleep.

© Felicity Photography

So whatever you are on that spooky night — princess, superhero, ghost, witch, goblin, or parent-in-the-wings… however you obtain your stash — trick or treating, trunk or treating, or secondhand while the little ones slumber… in whatever weather— gentle autumn evening, first snow flurry, or cold dark night… may your evening be filled with Good & Plenty treats, Starbursts of light to take you safely from door to door, and Mounds of memories in the making.

Happy Halloween to all.